Natural environments help the healing process, but sometimes quiet spaces with natural beauty can be difficult to come by in the city. However, thanks to a unique partnership between the VA Puget Sound Health Care System (VAPSHCS), Veterans and Friends of Puget Sound, Inc. and the University of Washington’s Department of Landscape Architecture, veterans and families at the VAPSHCS hospital have a new place to find peace and rejuvenation, as the hospital unveiled a new outdoor healing garden in June.
The project got started in late 2015, transforming an unused concrete space between two buildings into a tiny oasis. The UW’s landscape architecture students met with veterans and VA staff to learn more about their needs and interests for the space, then spent three months designing. It took another three months for the students to build the garden, and they did all the physical labor, bringing in dozens of wheelbarrows of dirt, planting flowers and trees, and building the garden’s seating.
Now that it is open for use, veterans, veterans’ families and hospital staff can come to the garden — adjacent to the emergency department and the hospital’s main entrance — for a bit of outdoor zen. The garden contains herbs, gently cascading water, a serene, wheelchair-accessible pathway through native foliage, and mahogany benches.
It took veterans a little while to get used to the fact that they could go out into previously closed off space, and it has grown in popularity in just a few weeks. VAPSHCS Public Affairs Officer Chad Hutson said one the nicest things about the garden is that it’s created a space for veterans and caregivers to talk on a personal level and share stories, which is welcoming for veterans.
Disabled American Veterans’ (DAV) Chapter 23 in West Seattle funded the garden with a generous donation to Veterans and Friends of Puget Sound. Hutson said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is even considering it as a potential model project for other healing gardens at VA hospitals across the country. Click here to read more about the healing garden in a recent column by Nicole Brodeur in The Seattle Times. (Tim Pfarr)